Happy New Year, everybody!
What’s that you say? It’s the middle of March already? We’ve gone and celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Presidents Day, Valentine’s Day, and I missed it all? The slow train to another birthday has been picking up speed and I’m that much closer to 30?!*
Excuse me while I shove my fingers in to my ears, cry out “Nah nah nah,” and pretend I’m still 25 again! Yeah!
Well, try as I might to ignore it, it has come to my attention that we’re nearly a quarter of the way done with another delightful year and I’ve not ONCE posted to my Britican blog in all of 2013. For shame.
So in honour of a new year of all things Anglo-American and pop cultured, I wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate today, March 8th – for it is INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY!
I love women. Sure, I am one, but I went to an all-girls high school so I’ve seen the dark side of my gender (it was rough, you guys. I’m talking yogurt lids on the ceiling kind of rough. You don’t even know.). But in my heart I’ve always been both a girls-girl and a girly-girl. (If you don’t know the difference, I can’t help you except to say it has nothing to do with sexuality.)
Given that my mother has worn make up approximately four times in her entire life I’m not sure where it comes from, but I’m a bona fide hair-twirling, eyeliner-wearing, choose-my-car-for-its-colour kind of gal. That’s, of course, just one very narrow definition of a “woman” and today I want to give a virtual high-five to a diverse sisterhood with a few brief run downs of my favourite women on the “scene” right now. For full disclosure, I should mention that I know some of these women personally and include them here because they are brilliant and because I’ve heard of them – two of my most rigorous requirements for appearing on these lists.
*For the record, I’m still 28. 2014 is going to be a rough year for this Britican-in-denial.
Anyhow, without further ado, here the women of the web I follow, my top picks for British women of the year, and my favourite female characters in television right now:
WOMEN OF THE WEB
These are the women writing online that I follow and enjoy. My readers come from all types of backgrounds and not everyone on this list will be to your taste, but hopefully there’s a little something for everyone:
Louise McCudden: Don’t try to label this writer of all things cultural, sociological, and, mostly, political. Just when you think she’s liberal, she turns around and makes a point that sounds rooted in conservatism – and vice versa. She wades through the issues one by one, giving each a fair shake, and can be found fighting for women’s rights with her pen-sword in The Independent, A Safe World for Women, The F Word Blog, and her own blog, Left Eye Right Eye.
Allison Vesterfeldt: I’ve only mentioned my faith in passing on this blog because I want to keep it fairly broad and more about pop culture and British-American observations. But it’s definitely an important part of who I am and I know it’s an important part of life for a lot of women reading this. It can be difficult to find an honest, modern Christian woman’s perspective on living her walk with God in 2013. Allison doesn’t just write for other women though; as well as her refreshingly honest take on the frustrations of Christian dating, she has helped marrieds with her advice on what not to say to their single friends, and helped her Christian brothers learn how to get the attention of the single ladies. She is the managing editor of Prodigal magazine and blogs openly and honestly about many intimate topics that you won’t hear discussed in ladies’ class at allisonvesterfeldt.com.
The Pioneer Woman: AKA Ree Drummond. If you don’t know her by now then that means you have probably not tried making her famous cinnamon rolls, which is a darn shame. She blogs daily about life on the ranch with her husband and four kids, takes gorgeous photos of her perfect life, writes and photographs what can only be described as food porn, and Reese Witherspoon is supposedly going to play her in the movie adaptation of High Heels to Tractor Wheels – Drummond’s memoir of giving up the glamorous city life to marry her Marlboro Man.
La Petite Gigi: I may be a girly girl but I’m functionally useless at all things fashion-related, and so I like to turn to LPG for inspiration about beauty, colors, fabrics, and gourmet foods. She blogs about her thrift-shopping, restaurant-trying, interior-decorating, style-envying adventures in LA at lapetitegigi.blogspot.com.
Mandy Stadtmiller: Warning – this chick is very edgy. She writes about all kinds of things that aren’t for the faint of heart. I’ve been following her on xojane.com for the past few months and have grown a soft spot in my own heart for her struggles, honesty, and search for love and meaning. Not to mention that Xojane is a lib girl’s paradise but Mandy had the courage to write a piece about her favorite prayer. Also, her dog Sam is the cutest.
MY TOP BRIT WOMEN RIGHT NOW
Adele: No explanation needed. Just watch her performance of Oscar-winning movie theme song Skyfall instead, if you missed it at the awards ceremony:
This woman is 78 years old and starring on one of the most popular TV shows around right now, Downton Abbey. She terrified me as a kid when I was obsessed with The Secret Garden, in which she played the formidable Mrs Medlock. I think taking her role as Mrs McGonagall in the Harry Potter film franchise was the best move she could have ever taken to redeem her reputation in the hearts of impressionable children everywhere. Just watch her gleefully do her duty to protect Hogwarts from Voldemort’s invading army of ne’er-do-wells:
She also showed her human side recently in this delightful 60 Minutes interview about her working style, playing the Dowager, aging, and missing her beloved, late husband. Basically, this woman can do no wrong and I would like to adopt her as my grandmother.
JK Rowling: Since it’s been over five years since the last book in Rowling’s Harry Potter series came out, it may seem odd to include her on this list—but late last year she finally released another book, The Casual Vacancy, this time for adults, and it emerged that she’s been demoted from Forbes’ Billionaire list because, not only does she not funnel her wealth to Switzerland to escape UK taxes, which she supposedly pays in full, the former welfare mom has also given so much of her cash to charities that she’s been rendered a common multi-millionaire instead. That’s pretty classy. (Now please write us a prequel about Dumbledore’s early years, okay? Pretty please?!)
THE BEST FEMALE CHARACTERS IN TELEVISION RIGHT NOW
Edith Crawley (Downton Abbey):
Poor Edith. Always on the sidelines, never center stage—except at her very unfortunate wedding, which we don’t talk about. However, this woman is going places with her journalism and desire to see her world change, mark my words. That’s if she can continue resisting the urge to choke her spiteful sister Mary on one of her tiaras.
The Dowager Countess (Downton Abbey):
Come on, just because I mentioned my new grandma, Dame Maggie Smith (DBE), above doesn’t mean I can leave out Lady Violet Crawley from this list—she is, after all, the queen of the quips. It’s just a shame she’s not Prime Minister. I recommend reading the Dowager’s parody Twitter account to get you through this dark period between seasons.
Shirley Bennett (Community):
Shirley is an outspoken Christian on television in an era when outspoken Christians are usually the butt of the joke, or terrifying serial killers (I’m looking at you, Criminal Minds). But Shirley is unwavering in her faith while not solely defined by it on the show and she loves her friends as they are. She’s the type of TV Christian I actually recognize from my own real life. Go Shirley! (Actress Yvette Nicole Brown is a ray of sunshine on Twitter, too.)
Daenerys Targaryen (Game of Thrones):
This exiled girl has dragons. DRAGONS. And after a life spent in the shadow of her power-hungry, hateful brother Viserys, by the end of season two she has come in to her own, commands an arm of men, and is a serious contender in this game of thrones they all keep talking about. (I personally think the iron throne looks very uncomfortable, which could explain Joffrey’s wretched mood, but that’s yet to be explored in the series).
Sue Heck (The Middle):
Such an underrated show, and poor Sue is underrated by everyone in it – her family, her school, where she has been rejected for every team activity she’s ever gone out for, and basically everyone except her “boyfriend” Brad. Yet, she is eternally optimistic and is the only teenage girl on television besides Rory Gilmore to ever actually want to spend time with her mom. I love Sue.
Cece Parekh (New Girl):
She is Indian, she is tired of dating, her eggs are drying up, and she’s agreed to a semi-arranged marriage so long as she can approve of the guy first. I like that a goofy show like this is tackling such issues in a culturally-sensitive, even-handed manner. I don’t think she’s gonna marry her fiance, knowing how she loves Schmidt (as do we all), but it’s cool that this story has even been explored in the first place.
…goes to the Royal Fetus – if reports are to be believed that Kate Middleton accidentally let slip that she and Prince William are expecting a daughter. Enjoy life at the top of the celeb child foodchain while you can now, Suri Cruise, because you are about to be usurped by a future QUEEN!
WITH ALL THAT SAID, HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY TO ALL MY LOVELY LADY FRIENDS WHO ARE OUT THERE DOING THEIR THING, CONTRIBUTING THEIR TALENTS, AND ENJOYING THEIR LIVES.
WordPress just informed me that today is NuggetofTruth’s five year anniversary! Happy birthday to meee and to my readers!
What started as a place to put my articles as a fledgling journalism student in London (and boy is it embarrassing to go back and read the early stuff. And the later stuff. Basically everything I write ever) has morphed into a confusing blog of British-themed tidbits and the occasional naval-gazing from a restless writer in LA.
It’s very fair to say that I don’t really know what I’m doing with this blog except that I like having a space to come to every now and then when I feel like writing something random, of interest to me, and in first person, which I don’t always get to do in my professional writing career. So in the interests of moving forward, please feel free to offer up any suggestions on what I should be using this space for in the future, as a way of focusing my writing. I personally love pop culture-related topics and the occasional bit of politics, but it’s hard for me to decide to go down that route exclusively since the blogosphere is not exactly in need of more commentary on those topics. But I’m also fairly sure there’s not a big enough market for a completely British-related blog, either. Or at least, Britican blog.
Hence, the unfocused jumble that is NuggetofTruth. I hope you don’t mind.
And thanks to everyone who subscribes to my random rants and sends me comments and thoughts. I really appreciate it. Keep ‘em coming and help me figure out how to make the blog better in 2013!
Ahh 2012! I barely knew ye. Is it just me, or have the last 12 months felt more like 3? It can’t already be almost a full year since I last sat around my parents’ Christmas tree in Old Blighty as my brother passed out gifts one by one, we ate my mother’s amazing cinnamon butter muffins that she makes just once a year, and we laughed at the various oddities bestowed to us by Santa and family. The weirdest gift I got last Christmas? A miniature cheese grater! Considering I didn’t already have a regular sized one, it’s come in very handy…
I’m going to do a number of “Best of 2012″ posts in the next few weeks—best of Brits in Film and Television, Best of Books, etc. But to start with, I thought I’d get up close and personal with y’all and share some of my own personal 2012, in photos. We can pretend it’s a tribute to the year of Instagram, which I’ve never used!
This was the year…
… that I finally met Nemo!
… and Dory!
… and I almost had a stroke from excitement that March 25, 2012, finally heralding the arrival of a new season of Mad Men
This was the year…
… of new experiences with great friends:
… and new experiences on my own:
It was a year of great highs:
Well, ok, it was a year of kind-of highs, including…
And it was a year of almost-lows, including…
All in all, 2012 was reasonably uneventful for me, but I had some grand times with friends and family, did a little creative writing, got some sun, and filled my quota of meeting cute animals*.
Here’s to a happy, blessed, and creative 2013 for all!
*Lies—the quota is infinity and can never be filled.
According to the Twitters and HuffPo, today is National Stress Awareness Day, which seems ironic to me after the nail-bitingly stressful day that was November 6! So, whether you were happy or sad about the outcome of the election, here are some tips to help you recover from election-related stress and handle stress in the future.*
- Find a quiet chair in a soothing room. Close your eyes. Imagine the next four years. Try to visualize 1461 days. Think it sounds like a really long time/short time (depending on P.O.V.) to get everything done that NEEDS to be done to turn this country around. Feel your stomach constrict and your shoulders tense up. Try to visualize actually being President and waking up to these problems every morning. Realize your life is awesome by comparison. Breathe in and think about the fact that you never have millions of people mocking your race/religion/funny ears/T-total family. Count to 10 as your hold your breathe and release, slowly. Now, don’t you feel better?
- Take a nice, long walk in the crisp, autumn air. Go home and make a kale-apple-acai smoothie. Don’t smoke. Brush your teeth. Smile in the mirror as you hope you won’t ever need Obamacare. Though you’ll certainly pay for it.
Here’s to 2016, when we get to enjoy all this election fun again!
* Now, if we could just get this highly anxious economy to recover. Maybe the DOW should go smoke on some of that legalized marijuana in Colorado and Washington?
This Britican has always been a huge fan of Disney. Their films combine three of my favorite things: whimsy, humor, and fairy tales. But I’m usually a stickler for not changing source material too much—which Disney does all the time with their false happy endings to tales that were originally macabre and tragic.
Case in point: The Little Mermaid, my all-time favorite story. Hans Christian Anderson’s tale is a dark, painful ode to unconditional, unrequited love, but I think we all know that Disney’s aquatic heroine Ariel managed to overcome her obstacles to become part of our world after all. Usually this would enrage me, as it would be like if Keira Knightley’s Lara Antipova was never arrested by the Soviets and died in the Gulag. Or if Keira Knightley’s Anna saw that train and turned to the camera, shrugged, and said, “Meh, I don’t feel like dying today after all.” Or if Keira Knightley’s Cecilia walked out of the Balham Underground station for some fresh air right when the bomb hit.
If any of those films ended like that then, sure, we might feel happier as an audience, but I personally love a good tragedy in storytelling and would be miffed. (Related note: Keira Knightley’s been in a lot of old-timey tragedies and truly, no one does a better or more dignified tragic death than she.)
All of this is to say that I give Disney a pass because, hey, their films are ultimately aimed at kids and I cannot even fathom my childhood without The Little Mermaid, Beauty & The Beast, Robin Hood, The Sword in the Stone, Snow White, etc, etc. The songs, the comedy moments, the scary moments (I’m looking at you, giant, foamy Ursula), the beautiful colors… they are the soundtrack to my childhood and the nostalgic yearning of my adulthood.
Which is why even though I never, ever dress up for Halloween because I am kind of lazy and perma-broke, when my coworker suggested we enter the Halloween costume contest as a group of Hipster Disney Princesses, I couldn’t say no! We did our interweb research, found ironic, hipster takes on the classic outfits of our favorite heroines, and printed out little thought bubbles to help our coworkers identify us. And our team won!
So the moral of the story is: don’t be a boring old fart on Halloween. Dress up and partake of the loony traditions, because it can be a bonding experience with your friends and coworkers and because, well, it can give you a good excuse to buy cute gloves.
(Thought bubble reads: “Men are too mainstream… I only date beasts.”)
NOTE: The longest and most personal blog post ever written by me. You might hate me by the end of it, but that’s just a risk every blogger must take!
Pop culture sells stories: the culture of celebrity and reality television sells the narrative of a person’s life, and like all stories, the audience expects a beginning, a middle, and an end. Some are short and shocking and make for excellent tabloid fodder/frenzy: the likes of Amy Winehouse, who we all watched triumphantly reach the summit of success with her awesome album Back to Black, then wither away over the course of two years before her tragic death. But most peoples lives do not fit so easily into this narrative structure, and the rags have to invent drama where they can find it. And from where I’m standing, they usually find it in two areas of a famous person’s life: their love life (obviously) and their body.
I’m going to ignore the whole love life thing for now and talk about talkin’ about bodies. Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears, Kelly Clarkson, Christina Aguilera—they’ve all gained some weight, lost some weight, given interviews about “getting their body back” through a rigorous regime of diet and exercise, all with the presumed intent of having their Kirstie Alley bikini moment at the end of their weight loss journey. And that’s fine—they live in the public eye and their bodies are going to be discussed with or without their input, so they may as well take charge of “the story” as much as they can.
But me personally, I’m not so comfortable making my body open for discussion. Which I realize is exactly what I’ll be doing with this blog post, but consider this a pre-emptive strike with a little background information, current status update, and request for radio silence in the future. And I think I can speak for a lot of men and women who would prefer to just live, and grow, and shrink with out any commentary from the people around them.
Background: I was a pretty normal kid, always taller and broader than other kids my own age (my brother was always taller too, and finally settled in at 6′ 3″), with some puppy fat but nothing worrying. Then age 10/11—bam! Puberty hit without warning and I suddenly had ample breasts and child-bearing sized hips and attention from older men that I was in no way ready to handle. (Nothing ever happened, thankfully, beyond increased… attention).
Seriously, no one understands how terrifying it is to go from kid to over-grown woman in such a short amount of time except those of us who have experienced it. All kids go through puberty of course, but to go from zero to D-cup in no time at all is utterly mortifying. Every single shirt you wear looks horrendous—you can either wear form fitting tops and open yourself up to lewd stares and comments or you can wear baggy tops that make you look twice your size (my preference). Running HURTS so all the games you would play two months ago with your friends are out of the question. Running also attracts too much attention thanks to The Bounce, and, like I said, attention is something no 11-year-old with a D-cup bra wants any more of, ever. I’ve always loved my food so couple that with hormones all over the place and a marked drop in physical activity and you get the super fun side effect of weight gain. Honestly, if I could just be 12 again forever I would! It was the best time!
Anyway, my Mum always loved her food too so it never even occurred to me that I’d have a problem. All my friends could eat what they wanted with out any trouble. My new body was totally perplexing. Where did these boobs and hips come from anyway?! Here’s a photo of my mother taken while she was dating my Dad:
I just assumed I’d look like her when I grew up. But it became pretty obvious around age 12 that I never would, and that was totally devastating, because she is beautiful and my Dad worships her and I’m, like, taking our gene pool back a step.
At some point I think I started to take comfort in food out of a stubborn rejection of its effects (I always had a problem with authority too—go figure. I don’t like being told what to do.). Kind of daring that bag of crisps/chips to go ahead and ruin my life and see if I care! Um, I think I lost that bet.
Anyway, flash forward to now. I got to grips with things in college and was never thin but I felt okay most of the time and learned how to dress better thanks to my amazing friends! (Also: eyeliner. Best thing ever to make you feel prettier.)
Then I got an office job and got lazier and blah blah blah, you know the story, it’s so not different from anyone else’s. Point is, I actually feel pretty comfortable with myself for the most part but every time I see a photo I’m reminded that “one of these things is not like the other,” and that one is always me. (Usually I just avoid looking at photos of myself—problem solved!)
So I’m not doing anything super drastic but I’m eating healthier and taking up more exercise—tennis with the boyfriend, swimming at the local rec, etc—and hoping to get a little closer to the me I feel I should be. Which is where it gets tricky. I’ve lost and gained and lost and gained over the years and the worst part, the absolute worst part, worse than clothes not fitting anymore or seeing a photo where I look like Jabba the Hut, is the comments.
Negative comments are obviously horrible. From one old lady informing me I’d be gorgeous if I just lost some weight (thanks, Body Nazi!), to my Dad’s best friend greeting me after a few years absence with “Wow, you’ve gained some weight, haven’t you?” (well, you’re old and mean, so take that!—answered in my head, between heaving sobs).
But the positive ones are almost as bad. Truly. The number of times when I’ve lost, like, one pound and someone will say, “encouragingly,” “Have you lost weight?” I KNOW it comes from a good place, a place where they assume that someone noticing my grand efforts will build me up and encourage me to keep going. But you know what it actually says to me? It says, “Man, you were hideous before and still hideous now, but I’m so, so happy that you’re taking your head out of the trough and slimming down so my precious eyes don’t have to look at your monstrous form any more.”
Overly sensitive? Definitely! But, that’s how it feels and I can’t help it.
I have to live in my body. You have to live in yours. They’re there, they go with us everywhere, but I try to dress mine modestly and not call attention to it any more than I have to and I would truly prefer if my body—and all bodies, in real life and in the tabloids—would be off-limits for discussion. You know what’s a helpful comment? No comment. Because whatever you say, the owner of that body is totally aware of it. Whether they’ve gained a pound or lost a pound or grown an extra head on the side of their face, they know.
And while praising weight loss is usually meant to be complimentary, what it really says is that a person is more valuable when they look thinner. It’s how eating disorders often grow—when disordered and insubstantial food intake is rewarded with positive reinforcement for the perceived success of the extreme dieting. And some people lose weight because they have horrendous diseases, and they are praised for “looking amazing” when they feel rotten and pained. What kind of a message is that? I’m in no danger of developing anorexia but I HATE the fact that people see my body and evaluate it. I would just prefer we all pretend not to notice each other in that regard.
So please—for those who know someone whose body is changing—just wait and feel it out to see if that person NEEDS your positive reinforcement. And for me, please just don’t mention it. At all. I have Facebook photos for that.
Things I Love:
Coffee, tea, red wine, white wine, Diet Coke, oranges, orange juice, and chocolate.
Things I Love and
Can No Longer Eat/Drink Should Avoid from Now On:
Coffee, tea, red wine, white wine, Diet Coke (I’ll miss you, lover), oranges, orange juice, and chocolate (whimper).
Things I Never Want to Eat but Should From Now On:
Broccoli, cauliflower, other disgusting vegetables I want no part of except carrots and asparagus—they’re a’ight with me
I won’t bore you with the details of what ails me, but I’ve been dealing with some health issues since I was a teenager and am embarking on a change of diet to tackle the problems, eliminating a whole list of foods and drinks, which are, coincidentally, my favorites. Wouldn’t you know it?!
Anyway, I started halfheartedly today; it’s now early evening and I am both jetlagged and caffeine-deprived and it is nothing short of torture. If I was in Guantanamo, all they’d need is to take away my Diet Cokes and I’ll say anything, anything, just give me back my Diet Cokes! But because it’s for my stupid health, it’s something I have to at least try.
* Oh, and I recently bought the Friends series boxset; my life is now punctuated by activity in undetermined increments. For example, last week was “The One Where I Spent the Week in Sweatpants at My Parents’ House in the English Countryside.” Yesterday was “The One Where I Fail at Staying Awake at Work All Day Due to Jetlag.” In about five days when I no doubt run out of money before my next paycheck I will commence the next increment, titled “The One Where I Regret Spending That Money on the Friends Series Boxset.” You get the idea.